July 10, 2020 – Governor Baker recently signed the bill which rescinds the Fire Inspection emergency order put in place on March 20, 2020 stating that smoke and carbon monoxide inspections could be completed within 90 days after closing by the buyers, rather than the sellers. This order was put in place to assure that closings could move forward as scheduled and help to take some of the pressure off Fire Inspectors.
In Massachusetts, it is legally required that the seller provide a Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Certificate commonly referred to as “the smoke” at closing to the new buyer. There are general guidelines put out by the state and local cities/towns that can have additional requirements. Since they are mandated by law, smoke Inspections play a critical role in the Massachusetts home selling process. During the surge of COVID-19 in MA, the real estate supply chain was disrupted, leading to a log jam in many parts of the buying and selling process, including fire inspections. The emergency order put in place by Governor Baker aimed to help buyers and sellers still reach the closing table, even without an official smoke certificate on the day of closing.
As Massachusetts recovers from the surge and moves forward with reopening plans, the Governor has rescinded this emergency order. The fire inspection rules have returned to normal, meaning smoke certificates are once again the responsibility of the sellers and required in order to close. However, the original order states that the termination of the order shall not invalidate any inspection deferral that was agreed to pursuant to the terms of the order. Therefore, sellers that already have closings scheduled and a deferral in place do not need a certificate to close, even after the emergency order is rescinded. For these transactions, the buyers are still responsible for obtaining the certificate within 90 days of the end of the state of emergency. For any deals on or after July 10, 2020, it’s back to the seller’s responsibility to obtain the smoke prior to closing.
If you are currently under agreement, and have a deferral agreement in place you are not obligated to obtain the smoke certificate, the buyer still is and these changes won’t prevent you from getting to the closing table.
If you are NOT currently under agreement and are currently listed for sale, you are now required to obtain the smoke certificate prior to closing.
If you are currently under agreement and there is a deferral agreement in place or have closed recently without the smoke in-hand, you are still obligated to obtain the smoke certificate within 90 days.
If you are NOT currently under agreement but are still looking to buy or are about to make an offer, the seller will be required to obtain this certificate prior to closing or the deal will not close.